MEMO to Hawke's Bay Rugby Union CEO Jay Campbell: You're going to owe MAC utility back Johnny Ika big time.
If it won't be in the form of a fulltime Mitre 10 Cup contract it's likely to be a commission fee for enticing fellow Tonga A player, MAC loosie Solomone Funaki to the Bay.
Funaki has set tongues wagging after all three of his games to date in Hawke's Bay's premier club rugby competition and it will be an injustice if he doesn't secure a Mitre 10 Cup contract next month.
"Johnny was the link. They played together for Tonga A against Western Force in Perth last month and Johnny told us we should get this loosie," MAC head coach Anthony Morley recalled.
"I asked Magpies forwards coach Josh Syms if he needed a loosie and he said they were always looking for loosies."
Funaki, 24, backed up Ika's recommendation in outstanding fashion with powerful carries on attack and superb destruction on defence. The Tonga under-20s captain in 2013 and '14 has no regrets about swapping Bay of Plenty for the other Bay.
"I had a couple of pre-season games for the Bay of Plenty Steamers last year and trained all season with them but never got a Mitre 10 Cup game. At the moment I've been promised a part-time Magpies contract for this season and if I go well I will get a fulltime contract for next season," Funaki explained.
A father of one from Fanga-o-Pilolevu on the main Tongan island of Tongatapu, Funaki, had a short stint in Auckland in 2015 before visa problems forced him to return to Tonga.
Officials from the Paroa club in Whakatane invited him back to New Zealand in 2016 and it didn't take him long to secure a berth in the Bay of Plenty Sevens team and then the Steamers training squad.
He is looking forward to marking K9 Petfoods Clive's Aussie import Lucas Goodin when the two sides meet in a Tui Maddison Trophy sixth round clash at Farndon Park today.
"I'll be starting at No 8 but I don't mind all three loose forward positions," Funaki said after a day on the job as a decontamination technician for Enviro Clean in Hastings.
Funaki had two seasons of rugby league with the Ipswich Jets club in Queensland during 2011 and 2012. This has resulted in one of his biggest works ons from Syms.
"In league you hold your line on defence but in rugby you rush up and make the tackle. It's an easy fix and I've been happy with my involvement statistics from club rugby to date," Funaki said.
Like Morley, Funaki, is confident MAC can reach the semifinals by gaining five competition points in each of their remaining four games starting with today's.
"I know we play an entertaining, high tempo game which can be risky at times, but if we do the business against Clive today we will be on track. I'm just happy to have this chance to play for a Mitre 10 Cup squad berth."
Magpies head coach Mark Ozich described Funaki as "a pretty good find."
"Mone is 1.85m tall and weighs in at 115kg. He can play all three loose forward roles and is destructive at the contact area. Providing he remains injury free he will get a run on July 4," Ozich said, referring to the Magpies next pre-season outing against Manawatu in Palmerston North.
Morley pointed out the likes of Funaki, Ika and Samoa Sevens reps Tom Iosefo and Fa'alemiga Selesele are proving inspirational to the MAC club's junior players.
"All 10 of our junior teams were unbeaten last weekend."
The 10 teams included the 11th grade side which is coached by Morley and the 12th grade MACLOCK side which is coached by former All Black captain Taine Randell and is a combination of Havelock North and MAC players as both clubs didn't have the numbers to field a 12th grade team on their own.
While the optimism of Funaki and coach Morley in relation to MAC's semifinals chances must be admired, there's unlikely to be any change to the current top four come semifinal time. However, considering how competitive MAC were during last weekend's 38-14 loss to Hastings, fans shouldn't be surprised if they upset Clive with a six-point victory.
Two of today's games will involve battles between the top four teams with unbeaten competition leaders Auto Super Shoppe Hastings Rugby and Sports hosting Progressive Meats Havelock North at Elwood Park, and Taradale Rugby and Sports hosting defending champions WIT Napier Old Boys Marist in the feature game of the Mighty Maroons club day.
Hastings should win by nine points and NOBM by 15.
In other games Tanalised Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports have the potential to pip Jarks Tamatea by three at Tamatea Park and Northfuels Central should gain revenge for their 87-0 loss to Altherm Window Systems Napier Technical with a narrow win at Waipukurau's Central Park.